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Judge wants Ladners' alleged co-conspirators identified

HANCOCK COUNTY — A federal judge has ordered the government to identify alleged co-conspirators in a case involving a Hancock County couple accused of being involved in a kickback scheme related to storm cleanup contracts.

Roger Ladner, a former Hancock County road manager, and his wife, Sharon, are scheduled for trial July 23 in federal court in Gulfport.

They have pleaded not guilty to federal charges accusing them of being involved in a kickback scheme related to Hurricane Katrina cleanup contracts.

The Ladners were indicted in December and each charged with money laundering and conspiracy. They are free on bond.

U.S. Magistrate John M. Roper in a May 10 order granted a defense motion that requires federal prosecutors to identify coconspirators which the government seeks to call as witnesses at trial.

The government had contended it had provided all the information that the Ladners needed to mount a defense to the charges.

However, Roper said providing the information was important to ensure “the trial does not result in unfair surprise and avoids trial by ambush.”

The federal indictment alleges Ladner awarded ditch cleaning contracts to relatives and a portion of the money was funneled back to him and his wife.

The Ladners also are seeking to have the charges dismissed. They have argued that Ladner “did not award contracts for ditching in Hancock County” because road managers aren’t authorized to that under Mississippi law.

The judge has not ruled on that motion or several others.

The government is seeking the forfeiture of more than $1 million from the couple and they face up to 25 years in prison, if convicted.

The government contends the county board of supervisors authorized Ladner to award contracts to companies, “including those businesses owned and operated by his relatives.” The government said Ladner approved 56 contracts for ditch cleaning in the county at a cost of about $7.3 million.

The government alleges Ladner and his wife used third parties “to conceal the fact that they and their companies worked on the county ditch cleaning contracts” and funneled the proceeds “to various persons and accounts.”

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